|Hansen Tries To Thwart N-Site
||Sunday, May 12,
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
SANDY -- Rep. Jim
Hansen, R-Utah, pushed through a House bill that might
effectively block a high-level nuclear waste storage
site proposed in Utah's west desert.
The stealth move showed Hansen, a
22-year House veteran scheduled to retire at year's end,
still has got a few tricks left in him. He used his
clout to quietly place an anti-nuke mechanism in a
military authorization bill that designates 500,000
acres of Utah land as wilderness, covering the sprawling
Utah Test and Training Range used by fighter pilots
stationed at Hill Air Force Base.
Sold as a way to protect the military base and range
from future encroachment or closure, the measure also
contains the obscure provision designed to prevent
transportation of nuclear waste to Skull Valley, where
the Goshute Band has proposed constructing a temporary
storage facility for 44,000 tons of nuclear waste.
"That's blocked right now,"
Hansen announced Saturday at the Republican State
Convention. "If the Senate doesn't foul up, we're all
The provision would
designate as wilderness a key transportation corridor
believed essential to shipping waste to the proposed
The bill rocketed
through the House Armed Services Committee, on which
Hansen sits, and passed the full House at 3 a.m. Friday.
Utah officials know the provision
stands little chance in the Senate, but they will focus
on fighting the battle in a conference committee, where
the House and Senate work out comprises when different
versions of bills pass. Hansen is expected to be
appointed a member of the conference committee.
The Farmington Republican,
working with Gov. Mike Leavitt, deliberately kept quiet
about the Skull Valley piece of the legislation.
"I didn't want to say anything
about it" and tip off Private Fuel Storage (PFS,) the
consortium of utilities pushing the Skull Valley
proposal as a storage facility for spent fuel rods now
stockpiled on-site at nuclear power plants, acknowledged
PFS learned of the
maneuver well after it was launched, and he said its
furious lobbying failed to stop the measure.
"It was snuck in," said PFS
spokeswoman Sue Martin.
was absolutely no debate, no hearings," she said. "If
this had been put through in the normal way legislation
is handled there would have been hearings."
Martin said she could not say
whether the provision, if approved by the Senate, would,
indeed, block the nuclear-waste repository. "That was
certainly their intent," said Martin. "But I just don't
know. I don't want to speculate on what this might do."
She said PFS isn't the only
opponent of the measure. Many environmental groups are
concerned because the bill would "fundamentally change
the way those lands are administered and managed," she
"We're not the only ones
watching it. There's a broad spectrum of concern out
Leavitt denied the
anti-nuclear provision in the legislation was a sneak
"It was always
disclosed," said the governor, who wrote dozens of
letters and worked the phones on behalf of the bill.
Leavitt will fly Monday to Washington for a full day of
White House meetings with Cabinet and senior staff
Tuesday in the attempt to get administration buy-in on
"It's in the
interests of the administration," he said, stressing
portion of the bill preserving the military training
range. "This is a major defense asset."
Leavitt stopped short of saying
the bill, if enacted, would block the nuclear storage
plan. But he did say it gives the state another potent
weapon in its arsenal against the proposal.
"We will argue with intensity
that there should be no nuclear waste crossing
wilderness areas," he said. "It's a milestone in a long
trail. . . . This is just one, but it should not be
minimized. It's a big deal."
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